Making a mockery of state control of the Kansas City Police Department, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has dragged his heels in replacing a police board member who resigned more than nine months ago.
By now, Nixon should have appointed a fifth member who could have been quickly endorsed by the state Senate, as required by the state law that governs the city’s police force.
Yet Nixon’s office released this terse message Tuesday regarding the vacancy: “We are continuing to work to appoint a well-qualified person to this position.”
Unfortunately, in the meantime, only four board members are left to oversee the largest public safety agency in the metropolitan area. The board’s sole elected official, Mayor Sly James, has pointed out that one pitfall of state control is that it takes too long to get new members when that decision rests in Jefferson City, not Kansas City.
The Star has long supported local control of the police, especially given the size of the agency and the public money it receives. James and others have correctly noted that City Hall should have more say over how those funds are used.
Meanwhile, state control for years has helped stymie City Hall’s attempts to encourage consolidation of city and police functions to more efficiently use taxpayer dollars.
Nixon should act soon to get the police board back to full strength. Even given the strong leadership of Chief Darryl Forté, the department needs a citizens group looking over its shoulders, trying to make sure it’s performing in the best interests of Kansas Citians.
Ultimately, Kansas City must get rid of state control and lose the unwanted distinction of being the only city in the nation that does not ultimately control its police force.